Insurgency: Nigerian Army Clears 25 More Children Of Links With Armed Groups, Says UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said Thursday that 25 more children had been freed from Nigerian Army administrative custody having been cleared of suspected links with armed groups.

With this number, a total of 44 children had been released this year, bringing the number to 1,627 children since 2016, that is four years now, the UN agency for children has said.

UNICEF which announced this in a press statement signed by its Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, specifically said, “Twenty-three boys and two girls were released today from Nigerian Army administrative custody after being cleared of suspected ties with armed groups. This brings the number of children released this year to 44,” it added.

It bemoaned the discrimination, deprivation and cruelty which the children have suffered.

“These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, health-care, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment.

“UNICEF will continue working to ensure that all conflict affected children are reunited with their families, have hope of fulfilling their dreams and their human rights,” said UNICEF Nigeria Acting Representative, Pernille Ironside.

Ironside added, “The children have been handed over to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and will be kept at a UNICEF supported Transit Centre whilst efforts to reunite them with their families and reintegrate them back to their communities are underway.”

The UNICEF Nigeria Acting Representative disclosed that the children would access medical and psychosocial support, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve their livelihoods.

Ironside further said, “We have made progress, but we would like to see all children suspected of involvement with armed groups, transferred out of military custody to the care of the relevant local authorities as quickly as possible to facilitate their return to their families and communities, spending minimal, if any, time in detention.

As we commemorate the 30th Anniversary for the Convention of the Rights of the Child this year, we must collectively commit to do more for the protection, well-being and development of children in Nigeria, including by ensuring that they are not recruited or used in conflicts in the first place,” he added.

Since 2016, a total of 2,499 people including 1,627 children have been cleared of association with non-state armed groups. UNICEF and partners continue to provide age and gender appropriate community-based reintegration support services to all affected children and other vulnerable children in communities that are at risk of recruitment by armed groups.